discover the places where Vincent lived and worked

Saint-Rémy, France

Olive trees, along with mountain landscapes and cypresses, frequently served as subject matter for Vincent once he was able to paint outside the grounds of the asylum in early June 1889. He had been drawn to olive trees since Arles but had not yet ventured to paint them:

“...that’s to say the murmur of an olive grove has something very intimate, immensely old about it. It’s too beautiful for me to dare paint it or be able to form an idea of it.” Read the complete letter

Vincent compared the olive’s and cypress’s “importance” in France with that of the willow in the Netherlands. He was surprised that artists so seldom painted the distinctive, picturesque trees that were so characteristic of Provence. In summer 1889, in Saint-Rémy, he took up the artistic challenge of painting them. In September 1889, he wrote:

“On the other hand the olive trees are very characteristic, and I’m struggling to capture that. It’s silver, sometimes more blue, sometimes greenish, bronzed, whitening on ground that is yellow, pink, purplish or orangeish to dull red ochre. But very difficult, very difficult.” Read the complete letter

He threw himself into the subject over the subsequent months. In his own words, he

“[had] a really good go at”

the olive trees Read the complete letter, and he was relatively satisfied with the results of his labours. In December, however, he had another attack that left him unable to work outside, and he stayed in his studio at the asylum, copying works by artists such as Jean-François Millet. He was unable to continue his series of orchard paintings. His brother Theo must have been sorry to hear this; he wrote to Vincent in January

“Do you know that when I saw your olive trees again, I found them more and more beautiful, the one with the sunset is especially superb.” Read the complete letter 


Vojtēch Jirat-Wasiutyński
Vincent van Gogh's paintings of olive trees and cypresses from St.-Rémy
In: The Art Bulletin, vol. 75, no. 4, 1993

Ronald Pickvance
Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy and Auvers
New York, 1986

Marije Vellekoop, Roelie Zwikker
Vincent van Gogh, tekeningen, deel 4: Arles, Saint-Rémy, Auvers-sur-Oise
Amsterdam, 2007

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